From Readiness to Resilience: Rhode Island's Digital Journey
"It is the second most densely populated state in the US, and its geographic proximity to Boston and New York, and several marquee educational institutions in its vicinity, make the state of Rhode Island an emerging hub of activity," says Liz Tanner, Director of the Rhode Island Department of Business Regulation, to the Ocean State with a postcard-worthy coastline.
Today, Rhode Island is a thriving business hub for advanced industries like biomedical, data analytics, and IT and over 100,000 small businesses make up close to 99 percent of all businesses in the state.
Rhode Island: Digital Ready
Rhode Island's state leadership understands how imperative it is to focus on innovation and digitalization. In 2020, the state was already making great strides in its digital transformation. However, when COVID-19 hit the U.S., businesses across Rhode Island were also greatly impacted.
State leaders recognized that to continue serving the residents, communities, and businesses, they would need to double up their digitization efforts, build partnerships with global industry leaders such as Infosys Public Services (Infosys) to build new solutions, and be prepared to adapt to the unprecedented circumstances in a way that's not only progressive but is built on a proactive approach as well.
According to Bijay Kumar, the Chief Information Officer and Chief Digital Officer for the state of Rhode Island, this was the push the state needed to seize the digital transformation that had been just within their reach. "Attaining success is completely possible in the public sector, even at an accelerated pace," he says. "We focused on people, process, and technology."
The Road to Resilience
The path towards digital excellence was built on those very foundations: people, process, and technology. And it started with a swift response to the COVID-19 crisis. The implementation of the Crush COVID app empowered state health officials to track virus hot spots, contact trace individual cases, and set up and spread the word about testing and vaccination facilities across the state.
COVID-19, in many ways, acted as a catalyst for state leaders, uncovering more opportunities to serve the citizens of Rhode Island digitally, including offering valuable aid to small business owners struggling with the tax and financial implications of the pandemic.
And as the state of Rhode Island pushed closer to digital adoption, leaders were able to empower small businesses to do the same. With computers and equipment provided by the state government, the RISCPA created programs to introduce owners to the technology required to take their businesses online and into the future. This evolution ultimately led to savvier, more confident business owners.
COVID-19 also accelerated adoption of other advanced technologies, including a pilot blockchain initiative, making it easier for Rhode Island professionals to establish a digital credential that could be used across an array of government and state websites. Liz Tanner says she often shies away from calling it blockchain because many think of it as cryptocurrency when, in reality, it offers so much more. "It's essentially a way to hold information in a very secure and safe place so that you can use it over and over again," she says. "Think of a data spreadsheet. It's the ability to organize it and hold it and use it in a safe and secure way."
Kumar says the strategies they were able to build, like blockchain, digital healthcare, and unemployment insurance — supported by Infosys — helped them respond quickly to the pandemic and kept them on their trajectory towards complete digitization. "We are well on our way to modernization and to complete digitalization. Today, we are close to 70 percent digitalization."
A New Way Forward
What's next for Rhode Island?
For residents, businesses, and officials, the future means greater access to the resources and services they need. It lessens barriers in education and employment, as well as health and safety. And, according to the Governor of Rhode Island, Daniel McKee, it builds a more inclusive state for all. "We're seeing that, as we come out of COVID-19, we need to make sure that we are connected — that there's not a digital divide," he says.
Through a range of initiatives undertaken in partnership with Infosys and other technology leaders, that goal — for deeper, more meaningful connections — is attainable. "I see that there's going to be continuous improvement in that area," Governor McKee says. "Whether it's got to do with virtual work or virtual learning, it's here, so we're going to try to take advantage of it in the state of Rhode Island."
What's ahead for Rhode Island is a greater state - a state of innovation, a state of efficient service, a state of empowerment. A state where the governance, as well as the citizens, would navigate to their next, digitally.